For years, bicyclists have been able to share the roadway legally with motor vehicles in Illinois, allowing those who ride to do so in an efficient and often simple manner. There are so many riders in Chicago, for example, that the city has taken significant steps to increase rider safety by providing designated bicycle lanes, protected bike lanes, and even bike-specific traffic control signals.
However, a fatal bicycle accident last year had many questioning the legal standing of riders and wondering whether riders would ever be safe under the laws as they stood. In that incident, a man was riding a bicycle when an at-fault driver failed to yield the right-of-way to the cyclist causing a bike crash that turned fatal for the rider. Though the driver was ticketed for failing to yield, the ticket was dismissed in court when the presiding judge determined that the bicycle involved did not meet the definition of a “vehicle” under the law for the ticket to be valid.
In response, Illinois House Bill 5912 was introduce and approved by a vote of 164 to 1 in the House and Senate. In August, the bill was signed into law by Governor Bruce Rauner and is set to take effect on January 1, 2017. The new law makes it clear that bicyclists “shall be granted all of the rights” of automobile drivers when they are operating on roadways in the state and that means that their rights cannot be ignored by others.
Some are calling this new piece of legislation “common sense” but in an era where bicycle accidents continue to happen weekly, it is important for legislation like Illinois House Bill 5912 to be enacted. The protections offered by the new law will enable victims of bicycle accidents to seek and obtain justice for the wrongs done to them whether that justice comes in a traffic court, criminal court, or civil court.
On average, more than 90 percent of bicycle collisions result in injuries to at least one person involved, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation, and many of those victims are forced to seek medical treatment as a result. Bills can pile up, victims may be forced to miss time from work, and they may struggle to get around until they heal. The worst accidents end in the loss of life which is far too common here in Chicago and which causes damages that can never be undone.
If you ride a bicycle, rest assured that the state legislature has taken this important step towards recognizing and protecting your right. However, do not be lulled into a sense of comfort by assuming all other motorists on the roads will respect you as well. Instead, continue to keep an eye out for dangerous drivers and be prepared to take evasive action if needed to avoid a collision even if you did nothing wrong in causing the near crash.
If you drive a car in Chicago or the surrounding suburbs, know that it is your legal duty to act in a manner that respects the rights of bicyclists and failing to do so may lead to legal liability. If you cause a collision, you may receive a ticket for your conduct or even find yourself the defendant of a personal injury claim which can hold you financially liable for a victim’s damages. Avoid these situations by driving cautiously, yielding the right-of-way to cyclists when appropriate, and never engaging in conduct that could be threatening to a rider’s safety.
If you find yourself the unfortunate victim of a collision in Chicago, make sure you receive the medical help you need and cooperate with local law enforcement officials as they conduct their investigation. Further, if you are interested in pursuing your rights following a crash, contact a personal injury lawyer to learn about what options may be available to you and whether you are entitled to payment for your losses.
Prior Blog Entry:
Keep Safety in Mind as Kids Head Back-to-School, Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer blog, published September 6, 2016.
New Illinois Bike Law Gives Bicyclists Same Rights as Drivers, by Alisa Hauser, dnainfo.com, published August 29, 2016.